domingo, 5 de julio de 2020

Spanish Lit Month 2020: 7/1-7/4 Links

Mariana Enriquez

With (partial) week 1 of Spanish Lit Month 2020 now in the rearview mirror, here are the links from 7/1 thru 7/4 that I know of.  Feel free to fill me in if I've missed any.  While I'm here, prompted by a question from Sebastián from Buenos Aires, I'd like to remind everybody that "Spanish Lit Month" is more properly "Spanish-Language Lit Month" in that any work originally written in Spanish and not just from Spain is "eligible" for inclusion in the event.  In addition, Stu and I usually will include the other major languages from Spain (Basque, Catalan, Galician) and Stu has OK'd Portuguese as an exception again this year.  He even snuck a French book in for his first SLM 2020 read last week*, ha ha, but he's the boss so don't expect similar bending of the rules from me unless appropriate bribes (beer, cookies, empanadas) accompany your requests.  Cheers.

Ali, heavenali
The Adventures of China Iron by Gabriela Cabezón Cámara

Grant, 1streading's Blog
Holiday Heart by Margarita García Robayo

Jacqui, JacquiWine's Journal
Who Among Us? by Mario Benedetti

Richard, Caravana de recuerdos
Nuestra parte de noche by Mariana Enriquez

Stu, Winstonsdad's Blog

sábado, 4 de julio de 2020

Nuestra parte de noche

Nuestra parte de noche (Anagrama, 2019)
por Mariana Enriquez
La Argentina, 2019

Juan Peterson es un médium para la Orden, una sociedad secreta que invoca a la Oscuridad en busca de la vida eterna.  Los ritos asociados con ponerse en contacto con los deidades del inframundo son sanguinarios, cuando menos, y la vida del médium tiende a ser de corta duración como resultado.  Juan, sospechando que está cerca de la muerte, decide salvar a su hijo Gaspar --su probable sucesor en el oficio-- desde el mismo destino por ocultar la aptitud del pibe para ser médium de los líderes de la Orden. Con esto como telón de fondo, Mariana Enriquez cuenta una historia que combina elementos de terror, de lo sobrenatural, con elementos de realismo crudo que tocan al llamado terrorismo de estado.  Transcurriendo entre los años 1981-1997 con un flashback a los años 1960-1976, Nuestra parte de noche es un lienzo grande pintado con urgencia y con gran atención al detalle.  Aunque la trama te engancha con sus varios giros y vueltas, hay una sutileza en la novela como se puede ver en la escena donde Gaspar, ya adulto, asiste a la inauguración de una muestra fotográfica.  Resulta que las fotos eran "de la Argentina durante su viaje de juventud por el interior en los últimos años de la dictadura", fotos tomadas al mismo tiempo que el viaje de Buenos Aires a Iguazú que hicieron Juan y Gaspar al comienzo de la novela.  "Las fotos, pensó Gaspar, eran bastante geniales.  Ninguna gritaba dictadura, represión ni muerte, pero la selección era inquietante" (597 & 599).  Por supuesto, lo mismo podría decirse de la novela misma.  Aunque Enriquez hace bien con el panorama general, también impresiona con sus pinceladas.  Había un par de páginas magistrales sobre el Mundial de 1986, por ejemplo, que me emocionó tanto que el famoso video clip del "gol de siglo" de Maradona relatado por Víctor Hugo Morales: "Eran campeones y era como volar, como si no existiese nada más que ese momento, un momento que era para siempre y que era alegre y tristísimo porque no podía durar.  Había que salir a la calle, no se podía estar solo.  Las calles estaban llenas de bocinas y muñecos enrulados del 10 y banderas y papelitos mire mire qué locura mire mire qué emoción cantaba la gente, algunos sacaron el teléfono a la calle para que sus familiares que vivían en otros países escuchasen los gritos, las borracheras, y lloraban desde allá, desde Canadá y Estados Unidos y Brasil y México y España y Francia, exiliados por la dictadura, trabajando lejos porque en Argentina nunca había trabajo, algunos habían visto el partido en bares, otros lo habían escuchado por radio, todos querían volver para estar ahí, incluso en algunas provincias donde llovía y festejaban empapados, las camisetas pegadas al cuerpo" (307).  En otra parte, la autora me hizo reír con esta observación de Gaspar sobre "la forma de hablar de los varones...especialmente el Negro y sus comparaciones futbolísticas.  Lo que dijo este tipo fue como un gol olímpíco de córner.  El infierno es ir ganando y que te den vuelta el partido en dos minutos" (545) y con este pasaje bolañesco sobre "el fragmento de un poema de Neruda" encontrado en un cuaderno.  "A Julieta le gustaba Neruda, leía poemas de amor y políticos, típico de ella.  Era un viejo de mierda, le decía, un pésimo tipo con las minas, pero qué poeta" (557).  Al mismo tiempo, la novela está llena de momentos inquietantes --la muerte de una niña que tiene lugar casi en cámara lenta y la que está televisada en vivo desde Colombia, un tal Dr. Bradford que solía decir que "los cuerpos enfermos eran su patria" (171), el hallazgo de cadáveres en una fosa común en Misiones-- y referencias más o menos oblicuas a los desaparecidos que se cruzan con la "otra realidad" alucinatoria de su mundo de fantasmas y brujería y "las flores negras que crecen en el cielo".  En resumen, un librazo.

Mariana Enriquez

miércoles, 1 de julio de 2020

Spanish Lit Month 2020


Spanish Lit Month 2020, as in previous years a two-month jobber running from the beginning of July through the end of August, is now in session.  Hope you'll be able to join us for a libro or two.  SLM guru Stu of Winstonsdad's Blog has written a welcome post here and another introductory post here with some participation/readalong ideas for those so inclined; loners, disaffected youth and others can also participate as easily as reading a measly one or more books in Spanish or in translation from Spanish and letting Stu or me know where to find your book (or movie or poem or short story or whatever) review(s).  I'll collect the links on Saturday each week starting either this weekend or next.  Having taken last year off from the event after having basically lost interest in blogging, I owe a special thanks to Stu for letting me return to the fold this year and I look forward to discussing some quality reading material with both Stu and the rest of you over the next couple of months.  Let's take a break from the real world if we can, shall we?

Spanish Lit Month 2020 Readers

lunes, 30 de marzo de 2020

Kim

Kim (Oxford University Press, 2008)
by Rudyard Kipling
England, 1901

With fear and horror everywhere these days, I hope you'll forgive me this exercise in escapism.  Anyway, I read Kim recently and thoroughly enjoyed it.  The tale of Kimball "Kim" O'Hara, the son of an Irish soldier who's grown up native as an orphaned street urchin in Lahore, the novel follows our crafty young hero as he travels across creation with an elderly Tibetan lama, receives a British education at an elite boarding school described as a place where "precocious youths" would be sent for "generation [after] sallow-hued generation" (123), and is eventually lured into a prospective career with the Secret Service as a would be participant in the Great Game all while struggling to come to grips with his own identity.  Part bildungsroman, part travelogue, part adventure yarn, with just a hint of spy novel thrown into the mix, Kim moves at a brisk (if episodic) pace and manages to capture its title character's wide-eyed appreciation of and zest for the human pageantry on display in every nook and cranny of his journey.  In addition to touching on the appeal of both the active and the meditative life in highlighting the bond between the young Kim and the elderly lama--seekers both--Kipling connected with me emotionally by evoking some of the affection of a Don Quixote and Sancho Panza among other famous odd couples of fiction.  As far as the novelist's well-known "problematic" side, I didn't feel that was really in evidence here.  Instead, we're presented with the lesson that the "Sahib" Colonel Creighton imparts to Kim, warning him to eschew race and class prejudice and not to "at any time be led to contemn the black man...  There is no sin so great as ignorance.  Remember this" and the evidence that Kim himself buys into this open-minded worldview.  "And who are thy people, Friend of all the World?" the Afghan horse trader Mahbub Ali asks.  To which Kim replies, joking about a "little clay-walled room" but symbolizing the vast expanse of India before them, "This great and beautiful land" (119 & 136).  A sparkling story and just the tonic I needed.

Rudyard Kipling (1865-1936)

viernes, 14 de febrero de 2020

The Case of Charles Dexter Ward

The Case of Charles Dexter Ward (Penguin Classics, 2001)
by H.P. Lovecraft
USA, 1927

"Howard Phillips Lovecraft's unique contribution to American literature," the blurb on the back of my Penguin Classics edition of this collection asserts, "was a melding of traditional supernaturalism (derived chiefly from Edgar Allan Poe) with the emerging genre of science fiction in the early 1920s."  Correctly or not, I take that explanation to mean that Lovecraft liked to tell implausible stories with some sort of a scientific (or pseudo-scientific) as opposed to a supernatural underpinning where possible.  As far as The Case of Charles Dexter Ward is concerned, that's more or less exactly what you get insofar as "the case of the missing madman" (92) collides feverish tales of grave robbing, necromancy, the raising of the dead, vampirism, cargos of mummies and the implausible like up against a "rational" world view informed by the latest advances of Einstein and "the modernistic Waste Land of Mr. T.S. Eliot" (182).  Never mind, for the moment, that Einstein's and Eliot's superpowers are found wanting by our unnamed narrator in comparison to the esoteric secrets handed down by ancient sorcerers through the ages!  Since I enjoyed my time with this short novel without really being able to put a finger on why, I'll have to give Lovecraft credit for keeping the pedal to the metal on the plot twists and turns and for deftly handling material that bounces back and forth between 17th century Salem and 20th century Providence with an impressive amount of period detail.  He's a good storyteller.  I was also amused by the one paragraph where a lesson from Oscar Wilde's life and the fate of a character in a Lord Dunsany tale were used to flesh out the back story of an ancestor of the title character--a rather freewheeling use of metafiction if you think about it.  Perhaps more intriguingly for one wondering about the distance between the novelist and his narrator, it's interesting to note the spotlight placed on antiquarianism as a possible explanation for Charles Dexter Ward's purported madness.  Given the writer's own predilection for archaic words (anent & eldritch being two handy examples) and a doctor character's contention that Ward's increasing infatuation with the "strange and archaic" offers signs of his madness "as if the snapping of the writer's mind had released a flood of tendencies and impressions picked up unconsciously through boyhood antiquarianism.  There is an obvious effort to be modern, but the spirit and occasionally the language are those of the past" (162), one can't help but ask: was Lovecraft poking fun at himself here or is this a mere red herring in terms of the plot?  Whatever, Lovecraft is said to have disparaged this tale as clunky and unfit for publication or some such.  For my part, I found it brimming with the "prime, forbidden, crazy stuff" that Amateur Reader (Tom) predicted I might find in the comments to a previous Lovecraft post here.  Wild.

H.P. Lovecraft (1890-1937)

Source
The Case of Charles Dexter Ward, Lovecraft's longest-ever piece at just over a hundred pages, appears on pages 90-205 of The Thing on the Doorstep and Other Weird Tales (New York: Penguin Books, 2001).

viernes, 31 de enero de 2020

The 2020 Argentinean Literature of Doom: January

Rodrigo Fresán

Richard, Caravana de recuerdos
Mantra by Rodrigo Fresán

To my knowledge, I was the only doomster to review something for the 2020 Argentinean Literature of Doom this month but no worries since we have 11 months left for the rest of you to catch up to the furious pace of that start of mine.  Still, here's a related ALoD tidbit to beef up the lone link above.  In Pepe Fernández's June 29, 2003 "El país de Juan Rodolfo Wilcock" ["Juan Rodolfo Wilcock's Country"], which I hope to return to later in the Doom calendar year, there's a series of great anecdotes having to do with Argentine turned Italian Borges and Silvina Ocampo and Pier Paolo Pasolini pal/writer and actor and translator J.R. Wilcock.  Would you like to hear the one about the talking cat?  Wilcock, who was meeting with Gigi Proietti at Wilcock's home in Italy to discuss a translation of Marlowe's Doctor Faustus, "exponía sus ideas con una voz calma" ["was calmly expounding his ideas"] according to memoirist Vittorio Gassman "cuando un gato cruzó la habitación diciendo claramente: 'Me voy porque ustedes me aburren'" ["when a cat crossed the room clearly saying, 'I'm leaving because you two are boring me'"].  "El escritor continuó hablando imperturbablemente.  Al cabo de un instante, Gigi no pudo más y preguntó, estupefacto: 'Pero... acabo de ver pasar un gato, ¿no?  'Sí, sí, es mi gato.'  'Me imaginaba pero, ¿habla?'  Y Wilcock, secamente: 'Sí, pero no siempre.  Así que como decíamos, Fausto...'" ["The writer continued speaking as if nothing had happened.  After a moment, Gigi couldn't take it any more and, stunned, asked, 'But...did I just see a cat pass by?'  'Yes, yes, that's my cat.'  'I thought so, but he talks?'  Wilcock, drily: 'Yes, but not all the time.  So as we were saying, Faust...'"].

viernes, 24 de enero de 2020

Mantra

Mantra (Mondadori, 2002)
by Rodrigo Fresán
Spain, 2001

So what might a 2020 Argentinean Literature of Doom novel written in Barcelona but set in Mexico City look like?  Well, I'm so glad you asked!  Three chatty narrators--one about to be dead, one already dead, and one probably lucky not to be dead--weigh in on their association with the shadowy Martín Mantra, who's first introduced to us as a Russian roulette-loving schoolboy with a gun in his hand.  As the quasi-science fiction space time continuum of the 500-plus page opus expands from this, pardon the expression, initial storytelling big bang, the shape-shifting Mantra is revealed to be either the prodigal son of a super wealthy Mexican film- and telenovela-making family, a guerrilla commander in Chiapas fighting under the comic book-like name of Capitán Godzilla, a sort of messianic figure dear to the lucha libre community or maybe all of the above.  While somewhat repetitive in spots, Fresán's freewheeling shaggy dog story has a lot to commend itself to the Des Esseintes aesthetes among you.  Fellow Roberto Bolaño fans, for example, may well laugh out loud with delight as I did upon coming across this otherwise run of the mill description of one of the young Mantra's tutors--"Chileno.  Poeta.  Arturo, se llamaba.  O Roberto" ["Chilean.  Poet.  His name was Arturo.  Or Roberto"], the face and name of the tutor now hazy but not the image of the poet unleashing verses on his listeners from tabletops "como cayeron las bombas sobre tantas otras ciudades" ["like the bombs dropped on so many other cities"].  Uncredited selections from the poems "En la sala de lecturas del infierno" ["In the Reading Room of Hell"] and "Godzilla en México" ["Godzilla in Mexico"] drop the mic at the end of the inside joke (86-88).  Elsewhere, in the long second section of the book narrated as an A-Z of encyclopedia entries, we're treated to an ace six-page set piece on "D.F. (Historia)" ["Mexico City (History)"] told backwards from the here and now of the apocalyptic present  to before the founding of Tenochtitlan--the rewind style leading to such bodily fluid highlights as "Veo a Malcolm Lowry aterrorizado por su propio vómito saltándole a la cara con la ferocidad de un organismo extraterrestre" ["I see Malcolm Lowry horrified by his own vomit pouring back into his face with the ferocity of an extraterrestrial organism"] and "El esperma conquistador de Cortés vuelve a sus testículos conquistadores" ["Cortés' conquistador sperm returns to his conquistador testicles"] (237 & 240).  Mantra, which was commissioned by Mondadori to be the Mexico City entry in a series of novels dedicated to the great metropolises of the world, naturally has more than its share of local color.  The flavors come in varieties 1) expected--the description of a masked wrestling-themed food joint known as El Cuadrilátero ["The Ring"], purveyors of a nearly three-pound sandwich known as "la legendaria torta Gladiador" ["the legendary Gladiator torta"]; 2) unexpected--as in the revelation that the Cafetería El Cuadrilátero actually exists and can be sought out by the hungry reader at Luis Moya 73, Local Cuatro, Colonia Centro (260-262); and 3) super unexpected--get back to me once any of you poseurs come up with a character name as awe-inspiring as Jesús Nazareno y de Todos los Santos Mártires en la Tierra Fernández (a.k.a) Black Hole (a.k.a) Mano Muerta.  For those looking for more doom than comedy, rest assured that you can find it here mixed--a married woman's comic lament that "Yo vivo en el primer párrafo de Ana Karenina" ["I live in the first paragraph of Anna Karenina"] (352)--or straight up courtesy of Joan Vollmer's bitter rant from beyond the grave over being left a permanent resident of Mexico City with a hole in the forehead "y el sonido de mar que hace una bala cuando entra en tu cabeza" ["and the sound of the sea that a bullet makes when it enters your head"] thanks to her hubby William Burroughs' fondness for playing with guns whilst on vacation (496).  Anyway, hope you get the ALoD picture.

Rodrigo Fresán (Buenos Aires, 1963)